Residents of New Orleans have been recovering from the devastating effects of hurricanes and storm damage again and again for years. Hurricane Katrina’s toll –seven years after landfall – can still be seen in the area surrounded our housing site, Camp Restore. Houses that were rebuilt following the damage now sit on foundations that allow water to drain. At the intersection, a home still bears a faded red “X” marking a property condemned. The wall bordering the church basketball court bears a clear blue line showing how high floodwaters rose.
When we entered downtown New Orleans, it was easy to forget the events have damaged the town so many times. The Crescent City remains a vibrant area, now accentuated with the glow of Christmas lights in Jackson Square.
We passed a gaggle of Santa and Misses Clauses along the way to Bubba Gump Shrimp. The tourist trap/Forrest Gump restaurant was an excellent place to watch the presentation of the Heisman memorial trophy and watch a screening of ESPN’s “You Don’t Know Bo”, about Auburn’s greatest athlete, Vincent “Bo” Jackson. Beignets from Café du Monde and a jaunt along the river were enough to make us all realize how tired final exams and the trek down from the Plains had left us.
We retired to Camp Restore with our new friends from Mount Aloysius College and called it a night.
Our “fun” day came early this trip: we spent our Sunday exploring New Orleans in the day time. After breakfast at Camp Restore we carpooled to the Aquarium of the Americas! Otters, jellies, penguins, stingrays, and sharks were an awe to get to see.
The insectarium afterwards left some participants’ skin crawling, but we had fun all the same. Lunch at Riverwalk gave us the chance to listen to Santa and his merry elves greeting guests and playing Christmas music. Our trip advisor Caleb was a magician’s lovely assistant in Jackson Square.
We also toured the local zoo and got up-close-and-personal with some frisky giraffes.
The day’s activities left us pretty wiped, so we returned to Camp Restore and napped until a delicious dinner, prepared by some of our very own. As I write this, we’re locked in a fierce 4 square match with our friends from Mount Aloysius, but I think we’re winning. We’re excited to start our service tomorrow morning. Four of us will be gutting a house in rural Louisiana while the rest work with the St. Bernard Project in downtown New Orleans